The Australian Government has moved to tighten telecommunications and social media security under reforms that will require telcos and ISPs to hold the telephone and internet data of every Australian for at least two years.
This consumer data, to be made available to intelligence-gathering and surveillance agencies, includes increased access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and other consumer data.
This data access is supported by reforms currently being reviewed by a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
These reforms encompass tightening Australia’s telecommunications interception laws, improving telco sector security and streamlining intelligence-gathering.
This committee, headed by Victorian Member of Parliament (MP), Anthony Byrne, is reviewing submissions on ways to secure Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure.
“It is vital that Australian security laws keep pace with rapid developments in technology,” says MP Byrne. “The committee’s inquiry will give the public an opportunity to have a say in the development of new laws in the critical area of national security.”
An Australian Government consultation paper, “Equipping Australia Against Emerging and Evolving Threats,” is being circulated for industry and community feedback. Final submissions to the committee end in August 2012.
This consultation paper warns that Australia’s telco legislation was enacted in the seventies. “Many of these assumptions no longer apply, creating significant challenges for agencies in using and maintaining their investigative capabilities under the Act.
“In the absence of urgent reform, Australian agencies will lose the ability to effectively access telecommunications, thereby significantly diminishing the collective ability to detect, investigate and prosecute threats to security and criminal activity.”
Telco reforms will ensure that “investigative tools” are not lost as telecommunications providers change their business practices and begin to delete data more regularly.
Additional safeguards and privacy protections are planned. These include clarifying the roles of the Commonwealth and State Ombudsmen to oversee telecommunications interception by law-enforcement agencies.
These reforms come as Australia experiences an unprecedented growth in telco and ISP services. The use of telephony, internet, mobile and voice-over-IP services has grown massively.
Around 12.7 million Australians, or 69 per cent of the population, now have access to a broadband internet connection at home.
Around 3.9 million Australians, or 21 per cent of the population, access the internet from their mobile phone.
As at June 2011, 57 per cent of Australians were using at least three communications technologies, that is, fixed‐line telephone, mobile phone and internet.
At the end of June 2011, there were 287 fixed‐line telephone service providers, three mobile network operators, 176 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers, 33 satellite providers and 97 Internet Service Providers (only including ISPs with at least 1000 subscribers).
Together they provided 29.28 million mobile services and 10.54 million fixed‐line telephone services and supported some 10.9 million internet subscribers.
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